While dining with his parents in a Chicago restaurant Sunday evening, several of Matthew Tkachuk’s teammates walked in.
Keith Tkachuk gravitated towards Andrew Mangiapane as talk turned to the milestone moment his son is on the cusp of celebrating.
No, not the 100-point mark.
Instead, the conversation steered towards Matthew’s 96-point season being just a few points behind the career high Keith posted early in his career with Winnipeg.
“Mangiapane is a funny guy,” said Keith on the Eric Francis Show Monday.
“We have a little inside joke that he’s going to collect the 99th puck, whenever it happens, just for Matthew’s sake, because he beat his old man. We were chuckling about that last night.”
Oh yeah, it’s a thing in the Tkachuk household.
“I think he wants me to get it and beat him, but I know how it’s going to work,” smiled Matthew.
“In the summer, when he’s pissing me off, if I do ultimately get it, knock on wood, I’ll rub it in his face for a little bit. But he loves the 500 goals he scored. He’ll throw that right back, saying ‘alright, once you get 500 goals then we can talk.’”
He nailed it.
“That conversation happened last night!” confirmed Keith, laughing.
“We have a lot of fun. We kind of razz each other a little bit. Whenever you watch a kid succeed, it’s great. I hope he gets it, and I hope he gets that ultimate prize at the end of the year.”
That, to be sure, is Matthew’s focus – winning the Stanley Cup.
Darryl Sutter makes sure of it.
Yet, as the Flames play out the last seven games of their season, there’s plenty of curiosity over just how gaudy the top line’s numbers can get.
On Monday, with Keith and Chantal on hand at United Center, Matthew drew equal to dad’s pace-setting season with assists on both of Johnny Gaudreau goals in a 5-2 win over the Blackhawks. It was Calgary’s seventh win in its last eight games – a stretch in which Matthew has 14 points.
Father and son are now deadlocked with 98-point seasons, at least until Matthew plays Tuesday in Nashville, home of his between-the-legs buzzer beater from the high slot that may just be the prettiest goal he’s ever scored.
Flames fans can only hope that Matthew eclipsing dad and the 100-point mark are as inevitable as him re-signing with the club.
A restricted free agent this summer, it’s unlikely Tkachuk will do anything other than sign a qualifying offer for one more year at $9 million.
After that, he’ll be as free to roam in 2023 as Gaudreau will be this summer.
Just how much will Gaudreau’s decision dictate Matthew’s course of action?
“Right now it’s not even thought of because it’s more important for both those players, and for the organization, to worry about what they can control and what’s ahead of them and trying to win a Cup,” said Keith, as savvy with the media as Matthew.
“I’ve got to give credit to (GM) Brad (Treliving) and ownership, they’re all-in, and now it’s up to the players to do their part. I’m sure Brad will meet with his management team and ownership to come up with a game plan to see what happens.”
Treliving said on After Hours Saturday he’d move “heaven and Earth” to try re-signing Gaudreau this summer.
You can bet the plan is similar for Tkachuk, who brings a toolbox as unique as any current NHLer.
Gaudreau and Matthew have both made it clear they love it in Calgary, but business is business.
“It’s too early to tell,” said Keith of whether Matthew will follow brother Brady’s footsteps by signing long term with the team that drafted him.
“I know for a fact he loves the group. He’s grown with some of these younger players and the city has been outstanding to him. I see it in the stands the way people cheer him on.
“He loves the whole organization, training staff and everybody involved in it. It has been good to him. They took him in as a young player and helped develop him and put him in a good situation, and he won’t forget that.”
Nor will Dad forget the night he watched his son tie his top season.
“I’m proud of Matthew, he’s done a great job,” said Keith.
“He’s showing his maturity. It’s fun to watch and right now him and his linemates have it going.
“He knew last year wasn’t good enough to win and that’s his ultimate goal.
Statistically, him and his linemates are playing well, but the team is playing well and that’s all that matters to him. They’ve had a good season to date, but it will be really important in a couple weeks when the playoffs start.”
If only he could get Matthew to put the mouthguard in his mouth from time to time.
“Me and my wife laugh, because of the amount of money we spent on the dentist and the orthodontist,” he chuckled.
“He’s going to learn the hard way. He’s 24 years old now. I can’t be taking his cell phone away if he’s not doing things we want him to do.”